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Revival of 'Oliver!' continues to charm people of all ages

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Oliver! Musical comedy by Lionel Bart (book, lyrics, music). Starring Ron Moody, Patti LuPone. Directed by Peter Cee. From its beginnings in 1960, Lionel Bart's version of ''Oliver Twist'' has been one of those rare shows whose appeal bridged the generation gap. All age groups have responded to its mixture of Dickensian melodrama, catchy songs, teeming action, and scenic spectacle. Judging by the response of a preview audience to the current revival at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, the appeal continues.

The production stars Ron Moody in the role he originated - the disreputable but beguiling old gang leader who presides over Oliver's education in thievery. Moody's Fagin is still larger than life, a comic grotesque who lives his larcenous existence with a certain seedy panache. At the Hellinger, Mr. Moody costars with Patti LuPone. Miss LuPone brings her powerful singing voice and equally powerful stage personality to the role of the doomed Nancy.

Braden Danner is an appealing little Oliver, a lad who endures his trials and tribulations with an astonishing degree of resiliency. Prominent among the essential fixtures of the lurid Bart-Dickensian world are David Garlick's comically artful Artful Dodger and Graeme Campbell's brutally menacing Bill Sikes. (Bill's bull terrier, Bullseye, is played by Vito or Buffy. Whichever animal appeared at the preview I covered was a credit to Bill Berloni's training. It never overacted.)

Among the more prominent incidental players in the populous cast are Michael McCarty and Elizabeth Larner as the Bumbles, Roderick Horn and Frances Cuka as the Sowerberrys, Sarah E. Litzsinger as Bet, and Michael Allinson as the benevolent Mr. Brownlow. Nor should one overlook the troupe of exuberant youngsters who double as the Workhouse Boys and Fagin's gang.

Mr. Bart's score has stood the test of time, notably comic songs like ''Food, Glorious Food,'' ''Consider Yourself,'' ''You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,'' and ''Reviewing the Situation.''


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